Friday, March 31, 2017

This Is A Joke, Right?

Surely this is a joke, a bad dream, just one big old got ya!

No state government would have ever year after year defund core services such as education, health care, police, and fire. Surely this is a joke, there has to be a punch line somewhere.

Surely this is a joke, no state would ever have 868,000,000 fewer dollars to run their state with, that would never happen. Clearly, this is just one big joke, they are pulling our leg, right?

No. This is not a joke. This is real life, this is our reality. Our state has 868,000,000 MILLION dollars less than what it needs to run the state. That is less money for education, health and human services, public safety, foster care, state parks, and our highways. How many of those things on that list do you depend on? It doesn't seem like a joke right now, does it?

Luckily our state has laws in place from keeping it from going into debt which is great, but still how do we survive this? Let's face it we have to do more with less, which is something we have seemed to have gotten used too.

We are all losers in this game. However, there is an even bigger group of people that lose in this situation, the children of Oklahoma. It is their present and their future that is being robbed from them. How can people be okay with this? How can people lay their heads down at night and not be outraged? I'm outraged, I'm devasted, and I'm heartbroken. Did I mention I was outraged?

In November we had our chance to make lasting change. We had a choice to make. I tell my students all the time that choices have consequences. We are reaping our consequences. I will admit State Question 779, wasn't the best plan for teacher pay raises and for funding education, but it was the only plan on the table. That was voted down for a better plan, a better plan to be made by the legislatures. Guess who we voted back into the office? The same officials that ignored the revenue failures, that ignored properly funding education and other public services, that gave out tax cut after tax cut to oil, gas, and wind energy companies. Elections have consequences, we are living with ours.

School districts across the state are being faced with the impossible, gut-wrenching, painful task of trying to figure out what to cut and still serve students with 12% less of what they are supposed to have. Some of the things on the table: cutting transportation unless it is required by federal law. Cutting Fine Arts and Humanities, and Athletics. Going to four day weeks which many schools have already done. Reducing central level and building level administration positions.  Closing school sites and increasing class sizes. Furlough days: those are days where the district is closed, and no one gets paid.

Is this what kids deserve? Is that what is best for kids? For the love, if you answered yes to those to questions, meet me outside. No! This is not what is best for kids. Kids deserve going to school five days a week, they deserve access to Fine Arts and Humanities and Athletics, they deserve to have the adequate staffing in their buildings, they deserve to learn in the classroom that isn't overcrowded, and their teachers deserve to be paid accordingly.

But by all means...let's try to pass another voucher bill that takes away funding from our already underfunded schools. I don't know about you, but I don't know a school that is flushed with cash.

We need a working budget, and we need revenue, and if you ask me I don't think to increase the taxes at car washes and increasing the taxes on tobacco products is going to get it done. Get down to business and get a plan together! The House Democrats have one in place, House Republicans get out from closed doors, get with your colleagues and make this happen. Just do what you were sent to office to do, serve the people of Oklahoma. You can serve the people by passing a budget that works and generates the revenue stream that we need. There are many that are on the frontline fighting this fight, and I say thank you. Thank you for standing up for our children and for us.

Those children that I am speaking of, they did nothing wrong. They didn't make the poor choices that have gotten us here, but unfortunately, they are carrying the heavy burden. Let me tell you about those kids, they are the kids that sat in my Choir Room with tears streaming down their faces as they sang "America the Beautiful." When I asked them why they were so upset, the response was overwhelming, because America isn't very beautiful right now, and we can't change it. My students are 12, 13, and 14 years old. Those answers are way beyond their years. We have to figure it out for them. They did nothing wrong, and they don't deserve what is happening.

Oklahoma legislature, you have a choice to make, please make the right one. Because this isn't a joke.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tick Tock

Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now summer's gone away.

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shall marry me

Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly.
Tick tock goes the clock
You and I must die.

Tick tock goes the clock
We laughed at fate and mourned her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock 
Even for the Doctor

You are creeped out yet?!? Nursery rhythms tend to do that sometimes. I will admit I'm glad my mother never read that nursery rhythm to me. I had my first encounter with this little rhythm on the British TV series Doctor Who. Because of copyright laws, I can't show you any Doctor Who clips. But seriously go watch it. The basic premise of Doctor Who is that the Doctor is a time and space traveling alien called a Time Lord. He travels the universe in search of adventure and tries to save everyone because he once couldn't save everyone. Plus there are beautiful people with British accents!! 

Tick tock goes the clock
April First is coming
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Legislature

April 1st the deadline mandated by state law for the Oklahoma Legislature to have a budget for common education in place. The problem is they have only met that deadline once. My friend and fellow #oklaed blogger explained this brilliantly on his blog View from the Edge, seriously go read it! 

Tick tock goes the clock
April First is coming
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Legislature

So what have these guys been doing with their time instead of working on a budget? Let's see: there was legislation the would put the Ten Commandments back on the Capitol despite the state voting against it in a State Question in November. They debated for two hours about a law related to bears. They tried to pass voucher legislation, and they spent some time on abortion bills that will be stuck down unconstitutional in a heartbeat. Well, ain't that special. Thank you goes the Democratic caucus that put forth a budget idea! Now, will it get approved? Will the Republicans have one? Will it get finalized by April 1st? 

Tick Tock goes the clock
You're running out of time
Tick tock goes the clock
Not that you cared anyways

Friday, March 24, 2017

What If?

I have made it no secret that this school year has been rough. Between the election, personal and professional struggles, and everything else in between things have been crazy. So many times in these crazy and busy situations I forget to focus on the emotional needs of my students because I am just so consumed with my own thoughts and process. I hate admitting that, I really do. This week my fellow #oklaed blogger and friend Rob Miller reworked one of my favorite posts of his and reshared it for us. I loved how he phrased it as "listening with our eyes" what is so funny is I tell my students that all the time, however, I say that in the context of listening to and learning to read music. How often to I forget to listen with eyes to the needs of my students.

This had me thinking about a piece that I wrote a year ago, oh this world could be full of love.

Kid President is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I love watching his videos, I love having my students watch his videos, so basically I just love everything about him.

Yesterday this picture was posted on the Kid President Facebook Page.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. "What if every kid in the world knew they were loved?"

Talk about a heart check.

I know that right now I'm on teacher auto-pilot. It is April, and I'm stressed out. Testing is full swing, I have a concert coming up, a trip to Frontier City, NJHS induction, and all the other usual it is almost the end of school year. I know that we are all experiencing this craziness right now. Somehow I wonder if have forgotten that my students need to know that I love them. That I have become so wrapped up in the day to day things, that I have started to lose sight of why I got into this profession, to begin with. Because I love kids.

How great would the world be if every kid knew they were loved? What about the child that is hungry? What about the child that is abused? What about the child that is abandoned? What about the child that looks like they have the picture perfect life but the picture isn't what it seems? What about the child that is homeless? What about the child with no family? If they knew they were loved, what could they do to change the world?

Kids are fighters, and they are resilient. However, they get stressed out and hurt just like we do. Educators they come to us not only to learn but also to be loved. Right now kids across the country are taking High Stakes Tests. Tests that in no way can ever give the real picture of what a child can do or who that child is. Teachers, you have done what you can to get them ready, you have taught them and gave them your best, but right now they need love. They need to know that you love them. You love them beyond measure. That their enough is more than sufficient. That is the knowledge that they need.

To put this simply, I believe that if every kid in the world knew they were loved, the world would be full of love. So much love.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Loved People, Heal People

When I first started writing on For the Love, the original focus was never education advocacy and policy, it just kind of turned out that way. I don't regret ever making the shift to that simply because I saw a need and I felt that I had a unique voice that could be added to the mix of already amazingly talented #oklaed bloggers.

My original intent of starting this blog was to tell my story, my journey in how I built relationships with others. I have always felt that my strength was building people up and making them feel loved. This is something that has been on my heart for weeks and something that someone out there in the world needs. 

Hurt People, Hurt People

I don't know how many times I have read that phrase, have had someone say it to me, or I have even said it myself. There are hurting people around us all the time. I would even venture to say that as educators, we might have more hurting people around us than most. I know that sitting on my choral risers are kids that are in pain, and carry deep hurt. They lash out, they misbehave, some of them retreat within themselves, and others just put on a smile and continue with their day. I can't even begin to understand what some of those kids go through on the daily. My job as an educator is not only to teach them notes and rhythms on a page, the right tone, and vowel shaping but to show them how they can heal their hurt with those things. 

Hurting people sometimes don't even know that they are hurting. Hurting people sometimes aren't aware that they are hurting others. Let me tell ya, loving a hurting person is so damn hard. Why? Because one of two things happen, that person will accept your love and begin to heal themselves and relationships around them, or what is sometimes the most common, they will continue to hurt you, others, and themselves and at that point, you just have to walk away. 

Loved People, Love People

I love people, or at least I try to love all people. I have been very open, honest, raw, and transparent on For the Love over the past three months. This has not been easy. Sharing my soul, with others has been hard. I have been hurt a lot, by hurting people. I won't go into details because that is when gossip starts and more damage happens, but I have spent hours in tears. I have spent days questioning everything that I believe. I have had moments that I thought about walking away from this blog because I was being hurt by it. Hurt people, hurt people, but oh friends may we never lose sight of the fact that loved people, love people. I would even venture to say that loved people, heal people. 

Loved People, Heal People

I could be so easy to continue in a cycle of hurt. That if you have been hurt to continue to hurt others. But what lessons do we learn in that, how do we heal brokenness if we continue to hurt and cause harm to others. The answer is we can't. The easy road to take would be for me to harbor feelings of ill will and hate towards those that hurt, and I will admit that there have been times in the past few months that I have wished ill will on those that hurt me. However, I made a choice to take the more difficult path. Forgiveness and moving on. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you want and need that person in your everyday life, in many cases it means moving on with your life so you can continue to love others. Sometimes and especially with students when we love them, when we accept them for the glorious, beautiful mess that they are, we heal them. We heal the hurt, and they are no longer hurt people, but they are healed people that then become loved people. It is beautiful when it happens. We break that cycle of hurt that is running rampant in our society today.

But then sometimes, we have to walk away. Those times are the hardest and scariest. Those are the times that we just don't know how we move forward. This weekend I made the decision to love those that have hurt me, hurt my family, hurt my friends, and even hurt my students, but I decieded that forgiving them also meant walking away. I could have choosen to continue to hate, but I choose to love instead. For the love, wouldn't it be great if everyone could do the same? 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dear Educator, 2017 Edition

Dear Educator,

A little over a year ago I wrote to you, and it seems we are in the same spot again this year. However, this time seems to be worse. I have struggled this school year, and I have been very honest and real with those struggles. There have been beautiful and meaningful moments, but those moments were fraught with hardship and pain.

This school year we have endured the failure of SQ 779, the circling voucher wolves, Betsy DeVos, and a revenue failure and the hurtful and harmful cuts to education.I can't sugarcoat this; it has sucked. But...we have such great power. There are those that are out there that want to diminish our power, our light, our impact, but for the love don't let them do it! Don't let them win. Be strong and fierce. Keep changing the world.

To the classroom teacher, I am in the same place you are right now: do I stay or do I walk away. I love this profession, I love my job, but the abuses of those in power are to much to handle sometimes. We are asked to do way more with less. But we do it anyways because we love kids. Right now you are enduring test prep, music contests, and all the other various aspects of our jobs. All the while backing plan B, C, D, E, and F for you and your family. Just remember that kids you have now need, but there will be kids anywhere that need you. You are changing and impacting lives every day. Is it easy, no! But you show up, and you do it. I love you, and for the love, I will fight for you as much as I can!

To the building principal, I don't envy your position. You are wondering what your staffing will look like next year. You see the writing on the wall, you are asked much, and you have to pass that along to your staff. You are tasked to lead teams of people that are tired, worried, and scared, but you handle it with grace. Your leadership doesn't go unnoticed. You are also carrying the feelings of what comes next for you. Do you stay or do you go. Not to mention you deal with parents and students and handle their needs when the classroom teacher needs you too. Thank you for what you are doing.

To the superintendents out there, I cannot even imagine the weight of the world that you are feeling. I cannot begin to even understand the pressures that you feel. Not to mention that most of you have to make these difficult decisions that directly impact people's lives, in total isolation. I have others that I can frankly and freely talk to, but you sometimes don't get that luxury. You are the face of your school districts both the good and the bad. Many of you are the most selfless people that I know. You endure and carry not only the hopes of your teachers and staff but your students and your communities. You are making the hard choices every day, and while some may get angry, you are doing the best you can with the hand that you are dealt. I am so grateful for you.

Finally to my fellow education bloggers, it has been a little rough and crazy! Thank you for using your voice in this community. Blogging is never easy; it is in many ways an extension of ourselves. It is hard not to take the attacks and comments personally. I know I have had my fair share of it this year, and so many have offered their love and support. Keep raising the bar of the level of discussion and keep people accountable. Somewhere there is a person that needs to hear the words you are writing.

I know that the words of some unicorn and rainbows loving music teacher, but not be enough. Just keep fighting, don't let anyone take away your power. Keep changing the world.

For the Love,